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While the response to the Janata Curfew and 5 pm clapping requests of the Prime Minister may have been enthusiastic, it must not lull us into believing that things are going to miraculously improve in the near future. There is no denying that the curfew would have had some benefits in permitting a better assessment of the situation but any positive change will depend almost entirely on responsible human behaviour. So far, the track record has been dismal and we have seen instances of extremely irresponsible behaviour from the most unlikely quarters of society. It has been rightly said “Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.”

At this point, there must be a single-minded focus to contain and stop the spread of infection. As an optimist, I would like to believe that the majority of our population that lives in small towns and villages would be reasonably isolated since they may not receive international travellers coming from the more seriously affected parts of the world. Clearly, densely populated urban areas like metros and larger cities are at maximum risk. Even within these areas, population concentrations such as large residential societies, office complexes, chawls, slums, railway stations and public places are the most vulnerable. Individual, community and the admininstration’s efforts would be well spent on sanitising these primary areas. Lockdowns may be inconvenient and stressful but in the absence of an effective remedy, they will not only be essential but absolutely critical in the prevailing situation.

Sound practices that we have adopted in the recent past with regard to individual and community hygiene, physical distancing, self-quarantine, contact tracing and crowd control, to name just the primary ones, must continue now and beyond the crisis too and become a way of life. Hoarding of goods by consumers and taking unfair advantage of human fears by unscrupulous profiteers whi hike prices of commodities needed to stem the corona onslaught reveal the dark and greedy side of human nature. May such people be blessed with more good sense and compassion towards fellow citizens.

This is the Commitment we all need to display at this critical fork, where one road leads to certain disaster and the other may lead not only to recovery but eventually a better future in more ways than one.

This is not the time to count money. This is not the time to bemoan losses. This is not the time for pink slips. This is not the time to bad mouth government and administration. This is the time to respond in a way that even surprises ourselves. This is the time to show the world that India will stand up to the challenge. This is the time for ‘real’ Commitment.


22 Mar 2020

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